Today’s columnist, Andrea Moon: Graffiti need not be ugly

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For my sins, as well as writing a weekly Agony Aunt column for The Star, I also deliver the paper when our deliverers are unable to attend. During my deliveries around Sheffield, I get to see the good, the bad and sometimes the downright ugly side of my adopted city.

I love the eclectic mix of historic architecture in the city centre and the urban sprawl of purpose-built housing with enviable views across our seven picturesque hills. But there’s one bugbear in my life that seems to be increasing daily, graffiti.

I’m aware that it has been happening for thousands of years.

I’ve seen the uncovered lava-smoked remains in Pompeii and read of cave paintings from prehistoric times. I even admire Banksy, but this pseudo American tagging just gets on my nerves.

When I was a kid, one of my friend’s sisters used to draw on her own doll’s faces. That was alien to me, to vandalise your own toys? I couldn’t understand it. I knew I’d really have got a telling-off and certainly no replacement if I’d have tried that game (missy). Didn’t I know that there were children with no toys at all?

When I started high school, there were vandalised desks and toilet walls. Names, declarations of love, 4 Eva 2 geva (*cringes*), puerile drawings and football team initials etched into the woodwork with a biro or compass.

My working-class-desperately-aspiring-to-be-middle-class school set up a debate team to address the situation and even some discussion groups to get to the bottom of this motivation to deface.

Some liberal sorts with presumably Guardian reading parents came to a do-gooder consensus that these poor under-privileged souls needed to affirm their existence in a cold, hard world. (Cue Morissey-style teenage angst bleeding heart anthem).

I didn’t agree. I was brought up to respect other people and their possessions, not that we ever had many.

I didn’t even write on my own pencil case at school, no matter how much I intended on becoming Mrs Adam Ant.

The scrawl dotted around Sheffield sort of resembles the Bronx-style bubble writing of 1980s hip hop on the side of subway trains.

How this relates to a Northern British Steel City, I’m not sure.

It smacks of spoiled middle-class teenage rebels tightening the strings on their hoodies and challenging the world to a scrap, because Daddy never paid enough attention.

I’ve seen some witty and artistic offerings on memes, and I’m all for a bit of irreverence but the random defacing of walls, paintwork and signs is just depressing.

It’s the emotional equivalent of licking your finger and sticking it on an iced bun during school dinner, so no-one else can have it.

There are beautiful examples of how blank hoarding/walls can be altered on Deacon House on Eyre Street.

It is reportedly an urban artist’s work rather than a paid commission and uplifting rather than an assault on the eyes.

Imagination not destruction. Spray-can art rather than ugly, selfish tagging.

Around Wellington Street/Rockingham Street eyeless shadow figures have appeared. A shadow cat currently lurks on Abbeydale Road.

Anything that raises your spirits is welcome.